OCEANSIDE — After hours of discussion and more than 45 public speakers, Oceanside City Council voted 3-1 to forward recommendations from the Medical Marijuana Ad Hoc Committee to city staff for input.
Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery and Councilman Jerry Kern are members of the six-month ad hoc committee and in favor of proceeding with recommendations for cultivation, testing, manufacturing and sales of medical marijuana.
Councilwoman Esther Sanchez opposed the recommendations.
Sanchez could not attend ad hoc committee meetings due to the Brown Act, which limits council member discussions to two members outside of council meetings.
Sanchez said secondhand information on ad hoc committee discussions did not paint a positive picture. Her concerns include protecting youth from drugs and the public safety impacts marijuana dispensaries would have.
Councilman Jack Feller expressed similar concerns, but voted to pass along the ad hoc committee’s recommendations to staff to review as long as regulations solely address medical marijuana.
Feller said his heart goes out to ill children and seniors who benefit from medical marijuana use.
The majority of speakers supported the city moving forward with marijuana business rules.
A good number of speakers shared personal experiences of the benefits that legal medical marijuana provided them or a loved one. They also said it is difficult to assure quality and safe access to the drug without city regulations.
One Oceanside resident said she was the caretaker of her ill sister who was in great pain for two and a half years.
“We need to continue the dialogue,” she said. “My sister eventually died, but I would have given anything in the world to have access.”
Farmers said the allowance of cultivation would provide them with a viable crop that could keep them in business.
“It’s an opportunity to keep farming in Oceanside,” an Oceanside commercial farmer, said.
The state will begin issuing licenses for marijuana businesses in January 2018. Most speakers said it is beneficial for Oceanside to have tailored city regulations in place and control its own destiny.
Lowery and Kern echoed the importance of taking control of rules and fine-tuning allowances to fit the city.
The councilmen also expressed concern about an active petition to put a city initiative on the upcoming November 2018 ballot. If voters approve regulations, adopted rules would require another election to be changed. The councilmen saw City Council approval as a preferred alternative.
Ad hoc committee suggestions include restricting the location of marijuana businesses to east of Interstate 5 to ensure a physical boundary between downtown alcohol-serving establishments and marijuana businesses.
Sales would be limited to four medical marijuana dispensaries.
Cultivation would be restricted to indoor facilities or covered areas on agriculture land.
Initial recommendations allowed cultivation, testing, manufacturing and distribution of recreational and medical marijuana, but city rules were changed to permit medical marijuana operations only.
City staff will review the ad hoc committee’s suggestions and provide City Council recommendations on medical marijuana business rules in two months. Currently Oceanside only allows the delivery of medical marijuana from licensed dispensaries outside the city.